Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson

  • Waylon and Willie [RCA Victor, 1978] B+
  • WWII [RCA Victor, 1983] B-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Waylon and Willie [RCA Victor, 1978]
Commercially, this collaboration was a sure shot. They could have hammed it up or run through on automatic; they could even have avoided connecting altogether. But as it happens, this is the strongest album either has made in a while, as full of enthusiasm and devoid of posturing as a dressing-room singout. As in most dressing-room singouts, though, things get a little too loose at times--sometimes it's hard to tell whether they remember the words. B+

WWII [RCA Victor, 1983]
Last time these two ganged up, Willie kept things honest, but this is Waylon's caper: Willie sings on only half the cuts, and sounds almost as full of himself as Waylon when he does. You'd never know "Mr. Shuck and Jive" was about Jimmy Webb himself, and Willie's own "Write Your Own Songs" makes you wonder whether that "purified country" "music executive" (same guy?) got on old tougher-than-leather's nerves by asking him for a few new ones. Waylon's solo turns on "The Last Cowboy Song" and "The Old Mother's Locket Trick" are the giveaway--the idea is to acknowledge that all this outlaw myth is shuck-and-jive and then make the shuck-and-jive itself seem mythic. But despite some distinguished tunes, only their duet on "Dock of the Bay," which has nothing to do with anything except its own lazy self, does the trick. B-